Jean-Claude Ellena – Parfumeur d’ Hermes



How do you imagine the business of a perfumer?

Ok, he sniffs a little bit here and there and then composes a fine scent. Is this the real story?

The first time I wondered about it, we were traveling with friends in southern France and wanted to go to Grasse to trace the history of perfume. At Fragonard we made a house-tour  (highly recommended!) which allowed us a small peek behind the scenes. A lovely French woman led us through the facility and told us how perfume was produced before the synthetic scents were invented. She further explained that perfumers are able to differ about 1,000 scents, but there are only a handful of these talented nose. Then we could give it a try and were offered 5 common scents, and I could guess only one right. I was very impressed.

Jean-Claude Ellena is one who of those gifted persons to smell aromas that are hardly distinguishable for a normal nose, such as e.g. 20 species bergamot. Since 2004, he is now chief perfumer of Hermes. And last fall, he has written a book to, as he says to reveal the work and art of perfumer.

It is published in English at Penguin Books and in German at Suhrkamp.

The diary of a nose – a year in the life of a parfumer let readers look him over the shoulders and let us begin to smell the world through his nose. We track how the magic continues to work as the silent music of everyday life grows into Ellena’s wonderful perfume symphonies.

In this short video he talks about his book (sorry, only french with german subtitles…)

More about the guided tour in the historic factory by Fragonard you’ll find here.

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